People who commit drug crimes can quickly find themselves facing federal charges. Following an investigation and indictment, defendants are then subject to a series of court dates as the trial draws near.
Although the crimes are serious, the court docket is long. Judges, lawyers and investigators are often overwhelmed by the caseload. Therefore, the system relies on bargaining through plea deals to dispose of cases. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder adopted a philosophy of only taking on federal cases that "served substantial interest" of the government.